Washington

‘Barefoot Bandit’ soon to be released from prison, work for his lawyer’s firm

The former fugitive who became known to the world as the “Barefoot Bandit” is about to be released from prison and will take a part-time job with the Seattle attorney who represented him in court.

John Henry Browne, a high-profile attorney whose clients have also included serial killer Ted Bundy, confirmed Wednesday that Colton Harris-Moore, 25, will do clerical work and answer telephones in his Pioneer Square offices after he’s released from prison to a halfway house.

“He’ll be looking for full-time work and will eventually be going to school,” Browne said.

According to Browne’s recently published autobiography, “The Devil’s Defender,” the attorney said he took Harris-Moore’s defense for $1 paid by Harris-Moore’s mother.

Browne negotiated a plea agreement that sent Harris-Moore to prison for six and a half years, but has resolved dozens of federal and state charges pending against him since his escape from a juvenile halfway house in 2008.

By the time he was arrested in 2010 after a boat chase in the Bahamas, Harris-Moore was something of a folk hero, with a huge following on social media and articles of his exploits in major national publications.

Browne also helped Harris-Moore work out a movie deal that resulted in a Hollywood studio coming up with more than $1 million to pay restitution that Harris-Moore owed for wrecking cars, crash-landing three stolen airplanes and dozens of thefts and burglaries. Harris-Moore has received no money from the deal, Browne said Wednesday.

Browne said the job offer was part of a deal he had made with Harris-Moore years ago.

Harris-Moore’s formal release date from Stafford Creek Correctional Center in Aberdeen is Jan. 17, according to the state Department of Corrections. Browne said he was being moved to a halfway house as early as this week.

According to court records, Harris-Moore turned to crime as a child out of hunger and neglect from his alcoholic and abusive mother. Pamela Kohler, of Camano Island, died of cancer earlier this year even as Harris-Moore, from prison, desperately tried to raise money to have her cryogenically frozen with the hope she could be cured of cancer later.

Browne said the death was hard on Harris-Moore, but “in some ways I think it was a relief and has freed him.”

Harris-Moore was first jailed as a 17-year-old, and was serving time for burglary at a juvenile halfway house when he escaped in 2008. For the next two years, he evaded capture while committing a string of break-ins and thefts, often leaving a telltale sketched bare footprint at the scene as a signature.

During much of that time, the gangly youth hid out in the forests of Orcas Island in the San Juans and squatted in the attic of a plane hangar at the island’s airport. Eventually, he flew a stolen plane from Indiana to the Bahamas, where he was captured.

The internet made Harris-Moore a cult hero, and at one time he had nearly 50,000 followers on his Facebook page, where he would occasionally leave a post written on a stolen laptop.

He eluded a massive manhunt, and police warned that he was dangerous. Among his crimes were the thefts and interstate transportation of at least two stolen handguns, and police say he took an assault rifle from a police car.

Harris-Moore said he taught himself how to fly using flight manuals and a computer flight simulator, according to court documents.

While he was able to get the three planes off the ground and pilot them, sometimes in bad weather, he had a tougher time with the landings: Harris-Moore crashed all three, acknowledging in defense documents that he nearly died in a September 2009 crash of a stolen Cessna that went down near Granite Falls in Snohomish County.

At his sentencing, Harris-Moore told U.S. District Judge Richard Jones his dream of flying was the only thing that saved him from the nightmare of his childhood.

Browne, the attorney, said Harris-Moore has been befriended by a Boeing engineer and wants to be an aeronautical engineer.

Browne says he’s been repeatedly impressed by Harris-Moore’s desire to improve himself.

“Indeed, Colton, one of my favorite clients today, truly is a triumph,” Browne wrote in his book.

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